Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. On this day many people put on dark clothes as a sign of mourning for the sacrificial death of Jesus. Some folks continue this until Easter Sunday. Also, people go to church where their foreheads are marked with ashes in the sign of the cross in memory of Jesus. the ashes are made of palm fronds which have been saved from the previous Palm Sunday as a sign of grief. The ash reminds us that when we die our bodies decay and turn to ash; before we can put on the new life of Christ we must let some of those faults and bad habits die away and turn to ash (Eph. 4, Col. 3). There is an ancient legend about the phoenix, a beautiful bird who built a nest of frankincense, myrrh, spices and herbs and then set the nest on fire, dying in the flames. A new phoenix would rise from the ashes. The early Christians used this as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection.
Like the advent calendar people have invented ways to mark off the passing weeks of lent. Greek children make Kukaras, which is a fat potato with 7 feathers stuck in it that is hung in the kitchen; each week children pull out a feather. Spanish and French children make a nun or queen with 7 legs and each week they remove one until passion week. She also has no mouth to remind the children to fast.